This year Deafblind Awareness Week will be observed from June 25 to July 1. This week is marked annually during the last week of June in honor of leading humanitarian Helen Keller’s birthday on June 27. Being deaf and blind herself, Keller’s work made a big difference in the lives of deafblind people. The term deaf-blindness refers to a combination of visual and auditory impairments and is much more common than many people realize. Over 15 million people worldwide are estimated to be living with severe deafblindness. So, besides commemorating Kellen’s accomplishments, this week is a chance for us to raise awareness of the condition and make the world a more deafblind-friendly place.
History of Deafblind Awareness Week
On June 22, 1984, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the last week beginning June 24, as “Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week,” commemorating American author and educator Helen Keller’s birthday. The week raises public awareness of the difficulties caused by deafblindness and highlights the potential contributions that deafblind people make to society. The latter is best achieved by fostering independence and creating employment opportunities, as well as measures to cure and prevent deafblindness.
Helen Adams Keller was born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama. She lost both her sight and hearing at 19 months old due to an illness. On March 3, 1887, she started learning to communicate through fingerspelling with her teacher and lifelong and devoted companion, and teacher Anne Sullivan. In 1896, Keller attended the Cambridge School for Young Ladies. When her story became known, she began to meet influential people like Mark Twain, and they became friends. Twain introduced her to his friend Henry Huttleston Rogers who was so impressed with Keller’s talent and determination that he agreed to pay for her to attend Radcliffe College. Keller had mastered several methods of communication by this time, including touch-lip reading, Braille, speech, typing, and fingerspelling. In 1904, at 24, Keller graduated from Radcliffe College cum laude. She later became a well-known personality and lecturer, sharing her experiences with audiences and working on behalf of other people living with disabilities. In 1924, she became a member of the American Federation for the Blind and took part in numerous campaigns to raise awareness, money, and support for blind people.
Helen Keller is an example of how persistence and hard work can overcome adversity. Her accomplishments symbolize hope and courage for deafblind people. Keller suffered a series of strokes in 1961 and died in her sleep on June 1, 1968.
Deafblind Awareness Week timeline
Helen Adams Keller is born on June 27, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, U.S.
In March, Keller starts learning to communicate through fingerspelling with her teacher Anne Sullivan.
Keller graduates from Radcliffe College cum laude.
Keller’s first book, “The Story of My Life” is published.
On June 22, President Ronald Reagan proclaims the last week beginning June 24, as Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week.
Deafblind Awareness Week FAQs
What are the types of deafblindness?
Congenital deafblindness is if a person is born with a sight and hearing impairment. Then there’s acquired deafblindness which is when a person experiences sight and hearing loss later in life.
Was Beethoven deaf at birth?
No, Beethoven was not born deaf, but he gradually became deaf.
Can deaf people hear music?
Deaf people are reportedly able to sense vibrations in the same part of the brain that others use for hearing.
How to Observe Deafblind Awareness Week
Spread the word
It is estimated that many people in the world are living with severe deafblindness. Help spread awareness of the condition and take measures to make the world more deafblind-friendly.
Learn how to interact with a deafblind person. For example, when you first meet a deafblind person, let them know about your presence by them tapping gently on their shoulder or arm.
Read books by Helen Keller
Keller published 12 books and several articles. If you have never read one of her works, it’s the best time to start reading “The Story of My Life.” You’ll surely get new insights.
5 Interesting Facts About Helen Keller
Her relatives felt she should be institutionalized
When Keller was about seven, she would kick and scream when angry and giggle uncontrollably when happy.
Keller’s first word was ‘water’
Sullivan taught Keller the word ‘water’ by putting water on Keller’s hand and spelling out w-a-t-e-r on Keller’s other hand, and Keller understood and then repeated the word on Sullivan’s hand.
She experienced public prejudice against her disabilities
After expressing her socialist views, the "Brooklyn Eagle" news editor wrote that her “mistakes sprung out of the manifest limitations of her development.”
Keller traveled to 35 countries
Being appointed counselor of international relations for the American Foundation of Overseas Blind, Keller traveled to 35 countries on five continents between 1946 and 1957.
Her autobiography inspired a television drama
“The Miracle Worker,” a television drama, was based on Keller’s “The Story of My Life.”
Why Deafblind Awareness Week is Important
She is an inspirational person
Keller published 12 books, received numerous honors and honorary doctoral degrees, and was appointed counselor of international relations for a foundation. Those achievements are more than enough to inspire people to work hard and be determined to succeed in life.
It reminds us to raise awareness
Some of us probably just found out about Deafblind Awareness Week. Together, after we raise awareness of deafblindness, we can work hard to make the world more deafblind-friendly for our deafblind family and friends.
It’s a chance to learn more
Deafblind people use different ways to communicate, such as tactile sign language, tactile fingerspelling, print on palm, tadoma, and Braille. This week is a chance to learn more about these ways of communication.
Deafblind Awareness Week dates